While waiting for Streamyx’s arrival to my home, I’ve been logging on to the Internet occassionally using TMNet’s 1315 dialup service. Man, it’s a hellish experience! At 33.6kbps everything takes ages to load and I’m merely visiting web sites!

I tried to visit some friends’ blogs and just couldn’t believe how bloody long it took to render the pages! After a while, I started to wonder how long would HTNet take to load on dial-up connection and I took a peek. I’m glad to find out that it loads pretty quickly.

Optimizing your web site’s loading time isn’t difficult; it’s mostly an excercise of common sense; smaller pages load faster. Hence, we should make our pages as small as possible without sacrificing the information we want to present on them.

When it comes to load time, images are undeniably the biggest culprit. However, in this multimedia age, using images is an almost unavoidable excercise. The key to using images efficiently is to select the right image for a particular purpose.

When choosing an image format, we basically have three popular formats to choose from: JPEG, GIF and PNG. Each format has its own strength and weaknesses:

  • JPEG
    • Excellent for rich coloured images
    • Decent file size compression to quality ratio
    • Doesn’t support animation
    • Doesn’t support transparency or alpha-blending
  • GIF
    • Small file size
    • Supports transparent regions
    • Supports animation
    • Limited colours (supports up to 256 colours maximum)
    • Doesn’t support partial transparency or alpha-blending; making transparent regions look chipped and unsmooth
  • PNG
    • Can be in true or indexed colour format
    • Supports true transparency and alpha-blending
    • Cannot be animated
    • File size can be big
    • Cross-browser support is an iffy deal (especially when it comes to Internet Explorer)

So what functions suit which format? There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to this issue. However, from my experience JPEGs are best suited for photographs and images with vibrant colours. GIFs on the other hand are ideal for animated icons that brings attention to nearby text content.

PNGs are my preferred choice when it comes to background images and logos; especially when full or partial transparency is involved. By overlaying PNGs on top of one another, you can achieve pretty stunning visual effects! Better still, most modern browsers support PNGs much better than in the past.

As an owner or maintainer of web sites, one should always experiment with these three formats to get the best visual representation at the smallest size possible. Play around with indexed vs true colours, compression rates and image dimensions. Explore the capabilities of each image format and you’ll make better decisions when it comes to using images in your web pages.

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You can read more about these image formats on Wikipedia:

One of the reasons I resigned from an earlier job I had in Singapore was because of the unbearable queuing time I had to endure after the September 11 and SARS outbreak double-whammy.

In fact on a couple of occasions, the infrared thermoscanners that they point to everyone’s forehead as a precaution was the culprit. It often showed my temperature to be much higher than it really is. Of course, this is no suprise because I had to walk across the causeway every day. Why? Traffic was almost unmoving then; again, due to the post-9/11 paranoia coupled with the SARS outbreak precautionary moves.

Imagine my surprise to read that the forehead-scanning thermometers may not be as accurate as originally thought.

Well, at least ASEAN mostly survived the SARS outbreak pretty well. As they say, better be safe than sorry.

KUALA LUMPUR, 31 July 2007 â€“ Today, Malaysia comes a step closer to realising the world’s first commercial deployment of High Altitude Platforms (HAPS) as a supporting infrastructure for the successful provisioning of broadband communications services.

This is marked by the formation of the HAPS Working Group by the Malaysian Technical Standards Forum Bhd (MTSFB) to develop technical codes, standards, service parameters, and guidelines on HAPS Technology and Services.

To date, the HAPS Working Group comprises of some 20 members who represent parties within the communication, broadcast and academic sectors, as well as relevant government bodies. The number of members is expected to increase as developments by the HAPS Working Group gets underway.

Rizal Datuk Haji Abdul Malek, senior manager at MTSFB, said that the formation of the HAPS Working Group represents a continual effort by the regulators to review optimal technologies that national carriers can adopt; to best roll out services that meets the country’s vision for broadband connectivity.

“In a way, the HAPS Working Group embody the efforts of regulators such as MCMC and MTSFB to realise the Government’s targets under the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and the Malaysian Information, Communications and Multimedia Services (MyICMS 886) blueprint,” he says.

Abdul Majid Abdullah, chairman of the HAPS Working Group, explains that HAPS refers to the use of aircraft hovering at stratospheric levels (ie. 20 kilometers from the ground) to provide immediate, nationwide access to broadband connectivity at cost levels that are significantly lower than anything commercially available today.

National Broadband Plan (NBP) is achievable with HAPS’ support

Recently, the Malaysian government upped its nationwide target for broadband penetration to 50 per cent among households by 2010, from the current 12 per cent or 5.5 million.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that broadband penetration would be limited to 50 per cent because the Government currently could not afford the cost for 100 per cent deployment – estimated at some RM56 Billion via existing methods and technologies.

To this end, HAPS technology is proposed as one of the most viable means to date to help achieve the country’s NBP at full nationwide coverage, at a cost that is significantly lower than stated.

Abdul Majid says, “Research has provided strong indication that HAPS could be the fastest (to deploy), most reliable and cost-effective way to meet the government’s goal for immediate and pervasive broadband connectivity of 512 kilobit per second (kbps) to every corner of the country.”

“HAPS has been extensively researched and developed for numerous projects around the world for the past 15 years. I am confident that with the commitment and sincerity of this HAPS Working Group, Malaysia will pioneer the first commercial HAPS deployment in the world with immense succcess.”

He adds that the set up of the HAPS Working Group means more than the industry’s advocation for a specific technology, but as a conscientious effort to achieve a greater social economic impact via the NBP’s vision.

MTSFB, which plays a crucial role to the development and eventual adoption of new technologies in the local communications industry, is a technical standards set up of Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). It is responsible for the managing and handling of issues relating to technical standards and codes in Malaysia. Up to 10 Working Groups have been formed by MTSFB so far, amongst others being the 3rd Generation (3G) Working Group, Wireless Broadband (WiMax) Working Group and Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Working Group.

About Malaysian Technical Standards Forums Bhd (MTFS Bhd)

MTFS Bhd was officially designated by MCMC in October 2004. It is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the standards, technical codes, network interoperability and operation issues; as well as to develop, recommend, modify, update and seek the registration of technical codes from the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

At present MTSFB has formed 10 active Working Groups focusing on Digital Terrestrial Television, Digital Sound Broadcasting, Quality of Services for Public Cellular, Powerline Communication, Next Generation Network (NGN), Broadband, IPv6 and others. Recently MTSFB has submitted 10 codes to MCMC for adoption and be registered.

MTSFB is widening its function when the National Standards body, SIRIM Berhad and Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM) appointed MTSFB as the Standards Writing Organization (SWO) in 2005 in developing Malaysian Standards on telecommunications technology. For more information, visit www.mtsfb.org.my

About QucomHaps

QucomHaps Holdings Limited

QucomHaps Holdings Limited is a telecommunication infrastructure company based in Dublin, Ireland. QucomHaps delivers stratospheric communication infrastructure service – High Altitude Platforms (HAPS) using piloted M55 high altitude aircrafts carrying communication equipment that is connected to existing and standardized local and international ground gateway equipment. QucomHaps offers the ONLY commercial HAPS service available in the world today.

QucomHaps Malaysia Sdn Bhd

QucomHaps Malaysia Sdn Bhd (QHM) is a subsidiary of QucomHaps. QHM will deliver the HAPS service nationwide in Malaysia to the key network players within the following mediums: mobile telecommunications companies, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and broadcasting companies.

For more information, visit www.qucomhaps.com

Business Intelligence (BI) technology adoption in Malaysia is growing at a healthy pace. More business organisations are becoming more aware on how a robust BI system will give them a competitive edge.

PIDM is one of the entities that are investing in BI technology with an aim to provide leading edge risk assessment and monitoring tools.

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 June 2007 – SAS Malaysia has been appointed by Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) to provide its Business Intelligence technology to develop leading edge risk assessment and monitoring tools to help it achieve its mandate as the national deposit insurer.

Mr. Jimmy Cheah, Managing Director of SAS Malaysia and Mr. Jean Pierre Sabourin, Chief Executive Officer of PIDMFrom Left: Mr. Jimmy Cheah, Managing Director of SAS Malaysia and Mr. Jean Pierre Sabourin, Chief Executive Officer of PIDM

The partnership between SAS and PIDM was announced at a closed-door ceremony in Kuala Lumpur today.

Jimmy Cheah, Managing Director of SAS Malaysia said that SAS’s wealth of international experience in providing solutions for specific industries coupled with its proven platform environment will be applied to help PDIM build the tools it requires.

“Today’s business climate calls for better and timely information to fulfill the increasing demands for transparency and sound corporate governance. As the volumes of data continue to increase exponentially, being able to intelligently analyze the right information and make the right inference is key. With SAS’s powerful yet easy-to-use reporting system, PIDM will be able to pull together critical information and be able to perform required analysis,” says Cheah.

“SAS is honored to have been selected by PIDM to help develop a risk and monitoring system to meet its needs.”

Jean Pierre Sabourin, PIDM’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), stated that PIDM’s role is to administer an effective deposit insurance system to protect Malaysian depositors. We believe SAS’ Risk Assessment solution will provide us the platform to manage our statistical data effectively,” says Sabourin.

Starting June this year, PIDM and SAS will begin the development of the first phase of the three-year risk assessment system project.

About PIDM

Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) was formed under the Malaysia Deposit Insurance Corporation Act 2005, with a mandate to administer the deposit insurance system in Malaysia. Deposit insurance is a system established by the Government to protect depositors against the loss up to RM60,000 of their insured deposits placed with member institutions in the unlikely event a member institution is unable to meet its obligations to depositors. As the national deposit insurer, a key aspect of PIDM’s work is to asses and monitor the inherent risk of providing deposit insurance and to promote and contribute to the stability of Malaysia’s financial system.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business intelligence and analytical software and services. Customers at 43,000 sites use SAS software to improve performance through insight from data, resulting in faster, more accurate business decisions; more profitable relationships with customers and suppliers; compliance with governmental regulations; research breakthroughs; and better products and processes. Only SAS offers leading data integration, storage, analytics and business intelligence applications within a comprehensive enterprise intelligence platform. Since 1976, SAS has been giving customers around the world THE POWER TO KNOW®. www.sas.com

When the subject of corporate data security comes up in any board meeting, chances are, the topics will straight away dive into complicated things such as firewalls and IDP systems. And when this happens, it’s obvious that the meeting participants are:

  • Not familiar with data security in the real world
  • Wants a quick fix at a reasonable investment rate in monetary terms
  • Prefers a certain department or an external third party to bear (almost sole)responsibility in this area

This approach is fundamentaly flawed, and it’s amazing to see so many corporate bodies adopt such simplistic approach to a very critical operational area.

More often than not, I noticed that decision makers often fail to address the real weakest link in any system: people. Yes, most people fail to see the value of data confidentiality. This is especially prevalent in clerical staff and junior executives. They tend to feel that they have no access to important information. Furthermore, they feel that what they do know is already public information.

In my years of experience in the IT line, it never fails to suprise me how people willingly disclose their passwords without verifying the identity of the party inquiring it. Sometimes I don’t even need to ask. Here’s a scenario that has happened way too often:

Me: Hi, I’m here to assist you with your Wizbang Application problem.
SU: Good. My username is <username> and password is <password>. Please look into it.

Even Microsoft uses a low-tech implementation for its enterprise-wide security awareness programme, via a simple card detailing information such as:

  • Where to access security policies
  • Whom to contact when an incident occurs and measures that can be taken

Low-tech, yes. Creates awareness, undoubtedly. Simple yet effective.

The thing is, data security awareness needn’t necessarily be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is, the more likely it is to be understood among all staff levels. To me, the problem is more of resistance. People expect something so important to be complex. This is the very nature of human beings, accustomed to years of social conditioning in which bureaucracy is seen as guardians of important procedures. Overcoming this mindset itself can be daunting. However, once this hurdle is overcame, the rewards are plenty.

An interesting post on Darknet.co.uk discusses the need to include social engineering as part of penetration testing. I find myself agreeing to the logic behind this idea. You can have the most advanced data security hardware and software money can buy. However, all this will be useless without educating users of the importance of data confidentiality.

I feel that at its very basic level, a data security policy should, at the very least, address the following issues:

  • Identity verification
  • Password lifecycle
  • Disclosure policies
  • Remedial actions and solutions
  • Ownership, authority, and responsibility
  • Convenience vs. Necessary Restrictions

I will not even pretend that this is an exhaustive list. However, I can safely say that it probably is the very bare minimum requirement of things to be considered in order to develop a competent security policy. Since I came with the list, let me just name it the IPDROC guidefor ease of reference.

You’re probably thinking, “If the IPDROC guide is so good, why does it need a Remedial actions and solutions section?”. Well, my answer is, I’ve yet to see a good all encompassing solution when it comes to data security.

Saying that a proposed solution is perfect is at the very least, stupid and at most arrogant. There’s nothing wrong with making a stupid mistake. Nobody becomes smart by not making any stupid mistakes. However, those who are arrogant and refuse to acknowledge flaws in their creations are in my books, worse than stupid.

It is vital to have a remedial policy in place for unexpected situations. By skipping this portion, you’re taking a step towards havoc should something not go according to plan.

I thank you for reading this writeup to its completion. My intention on writing this is not to educate anyone. I probably am not worthy for such a thing. However, I do wish to share my thoughts about this issue and the observations I’ve made. Comments are most welcomed and highly appreciated.